1227 AD, Burkhan Khaldun
The digging was at its peak. It had started on the thirteenth day, when we had arrived at this hillock of Khentii after travelling almost half of Mongolia.
We were the chosen ones to carry the remains of the Khan. Five hundred of us were doing the digging assiduously, another five hundred stood guard. We began our work at the break of dawn and continued till the sun bathed the undulating waters of Onon in saffron colours with its last rays.
Not a soul should wander to this part of the world, those who strayed, met with death. No human was left who had seen the Khan’s last journey. A journey which had a convoy of a thousand men and two thousand horses. A thousand rode by us and another thousand horses to carry the wealth acquired from the plunders all across Eurasia.
The trampling of the horses, the jingling of the precious metals inside hundreds of boxes easily concealed the jiggling of the bottle of potion inside my fur coat.
It was during one of the pillages, I came across the shaman of a rival tribe. He offered me this miraculous potion in exchange for his life. The potion, he claimed can cease my visibility for a day. To lend credibility to his claim, he confided in me, he came to know about this concoction from a benevolent spirit. He said I can use it but only once in my life.
My hands were having blood of millions from the Pacific Ocean in the east to the Caspian sea in the west, yet in the face of my own death my loyalty glimmered. The fear of getting buried alive was awakening in me the temptation to try the potion I had been sceptical of. No denying about the gluttony of my subconscious mind, to be the only person left alive to know the burial site of the man who might be the wealthiest in history.
Next day with the rising sun we started digging the burial trench again. The dug out grave had depth equal to height of fifteen of us. I saw my fellow Darkhads excavate their own graves. We were sworn to sacrifice ourselves after the burial. The soil and rock would be thrown from above when we would be still breathing. Such that our spirits would be trapped inside protecting the Great Khan and his worldly treasures.
As the evening approached we were done with the digging. We rested. Our men were scattered all over the hillock. The air bore the musty smell of damp fur coats, horse dungs, liquor, the smoke of raw meat getting roasted and the stench of the corpse awaiting to be laid in peace.
The darkness then covered the Khentii mountains in a blanket. The men were inebriated on the last night of their lives.
“It’s time Jebe.” I thought.
I slipped quietly to the other side of the hillock and gulped down the potion in a few sips. In some time I saw myself dissolve into thin air, into the dark night.
As the soft rays of sun struggled to make its way through the curtains of fog, they started to lower the casket containing the Khan’s remains into the sepulchre. He didn’t part with his loot even in death, which were laid down one by one around him in boxes.
“Khuuy Jebe.” I heard one of my fellow Darkhads call out my name for assistance. I remained silent, invisible amongst them. Unable to get a helping hand from me, he looked around. He didn’t bother as someone else came forward.
Later, they descended down the trench, one by one. All thousand, except one. I watched everything from above the ditch. The guilt of my deceitful act was beginning to weigh me down. But it was too late.
With the gesture of his hand the chief signalled the horses. More than thousand previously trained horses gathered at the rim of the ditch and started galloping in circles which made the dug out soil and igneous rocks to fall back into the trench over the sworn guards who sat on knees stretching their hands. The surrounding mountains reverberated with the verses recited by them in shamanic rituals.
The voices gradually muffled and then muted with the dusk bidding adieu. But the mountains continued echoing the moaning voices. The wind insanely fluttered the multiple-hued prayer flags tucked in rows near the mound.
It was time for me to flee. I grabbed the rein of the nearest horse. It neighed violently in protest of being hauled by a formless entity. I overpowered it and started descending the hillock as fast as I could. The beast normalised when I started to gain my form on reaching the valley.
Suddenly thick fog started to form. The howling winds and the ominous clouds bore the message that a storm was approaching. A lightning bolt struck my path right in front of me, like a narrowly missed arrow lands in front of a prey. The frightened horse hurled me off its back. The very next moment I found myself in a brief flight, before hitting a rock, which immediately got smeared with blood. The same blood which dripped from my forehead and drenched my hair.
It was as if a curse was following me which had pledged to see my destruction. As if my scornful act towards the sacred spirits was putting fetters in my way. My entire body was shivering.
The slate grey coloured mountains and the vast looming sky was turning black in front of my eyes. As I lay there still, unable to move, I remembered the last words of the Shaman. He mumbled when I posed to land the lethal sword strike after snatching the potion from him, “You can be invisible only for the worldly beings. The spirits will hunt you down.”
Corse- corpse (archaic)
Darkhads- elite soldiers of Genghis Khan
Khuuy- way to say ‘hey!’ in Mongolian
Khan- ruler or leader
- Wikipedia-Genghis Khan
Credit- Mr. Amardush Dorj
Photo By: Yann Schaub